May 11, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Drug Prescribing/Dispensing Public Health
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to act this week on a series of bills to combat opioid abuse. The bills include provisions that would encourage the prescription and distribution of opioid overdose reversal drugs; permit the partial filling of prescriptions to avoid overuse; create an advisory committee within the Food and Drug Administration to review opioids without abuse-deterrent properties before they are approved; and evaluate opioid treatment infrastructure. At press time, several bills were still being considered by the Rules Committee.
Instead of allocating new funding, all of the bills redirect existing funding within the U.S. Justice Department and other agencies.
The bills being considered are:
HR 4981: The Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Expansion and Modernization Act. This bill modifies the rules regarding the administration of medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction and expands such treatment without raising the current patient cap. It would allow qualified nurse practitioners (NP) and physician assistants (PA), not just physicians, to provide such services and would allow drugs administered in a medical office to be exempted from the patient caps. This provision only applies where NPs and PAs can already prescribe Schedule III-V drugs, and they would still be subject to state supervision and training requirements. The bill also allows prescriptions for Schedule II drugs to be partially filled in order to reduce the potential for abuse. The partial fill provision is voluntary and up to the physician and the patient.
HR 4063: The Promoting Responsible Opioid Management and Incorporating Scientific Expertise Act. This bill would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to update the chronic pain therapy guidelines at veterans' medical facilities.
HR 5048: The Good Samaritan Assessment Act. This bill would require the Government Accounting Office to perform a review of state medical liability Good Samaritan laws regarding emergency responses to opioid overdoses.
HR 5022: The Opioid Program Evaluation Act. This bill directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate the effectiveness of drug control programs and grant programs that provide assistance in addressing opioid abuse.
HR 4641: Interagency Task Force. This bill would establish an interagency task force to review, modify and update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medications.
HR 5046: The Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act. This bill would authorize the U.S. Attorney General to make grants to assist state and local governments in addressing the national epidemic of opioid abuse. It includes grants for addiction treatment, prevention and the management of controlled substances.
In February, the U.S. Senate voted 94-1 to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA; S 524), that would fund opioid education and prevention initiatives, improve treatment programs and expand the availability of the overdose prevention drug naloxone. The bills from both houses of Congress are expected go to a formal House-Senate conference committee to develop a final legislative package.